1. Clarietta Charlie Boyer and the Voyeurs
The post punk monster of an album that was Clarietta tops my
list of 2013. Although the critics nodded their heads to it
when it was released, and praised it moderately, I dont believe
Clarietta has received nearly enough credit as it deserves.
The Voyeurs have emerged as possibly the most promising band
of the year, and will no doubt prove themselves to be the true
prize gem of Heavenly Recordings.
2. MGMT MGMT
The self-titled third studio album from MGMT was a real humdinger.
The universe held its breath as Vanwyngarden and Company prepared
to let loose what they had already described to be some very
different music as to what all of us had fallen so deeply in
love with notably their hit debut of 2008, Oracular Spectacular.
And they were right; it was quite a step away from their usual
nonchalant indie-pop. But hell, it was so great that nobody
gave a damn. There were even some real life lessons to be had
on the LP proof in Your Life Is a Lie. Basically all-round
3. 180 Palma Violets
Its unusual for an album released so early in a year (February,
to be exact) to be remembered when, at the end of the year,
bloggers, reviewers and journalists round up the best and worst
music of the past 12 months. It happened so long ago that its
sort of forgotten, whilst the big, showy summer records and
the bittersweet winter albums hog the limelight. But 180 is
hardly an album to forget the fresh, energetic garage rock
from Lambeth kicked off the year that was to be hailed one of
guitar rock revival, and it gave kids the sense that, this was
what they had been waiting for. This was real music that real
people could dance to. And it felt pretty awesome.
4. Where the Heaven Are We Swim Deep
Okay, so I only just accused big, summer records of taking all
the credit. But this was something else. Four guys from Birmingham
dressed in baggy tartan and ratty Nirvana tees roll into the
hype and release an album should it be called an album?
more a mixture of all things lovely. Because Where the Heaven
Are We is a lovely record. Its so dream-pop and radiant, evokes
memories that youve never had and basically makes you smile
ear to ear because it pumps this drug into your veins called
Happiness. If more people listened to the album, wed probably
be calling off a lot of wars by now.
5. Sistrionix Deap Vally
Two girls. Taking on the world. Whilst crocheting. This is basically
Deap Vally, and their insanely brilliant debut album. Blues
with a bit of glam and a whole lot of punk spirit. The sheer
loudness of the band is crazy, seeing as theres one guitar,
one drum kit and one hell of a voice, courtesy of Lindsey Troy.
True girl power.
5 from 2013
Alela Diane - About Farewell
An idea spun round and round makes a deep lasting impression.
I discovered Alela Diane's rarified songcraft in 2013, sparse
ballads set to a kind of revolving Americana that does genuinely
'haunt' (a much over-used word!). This is her 'post-divorce'
album, singer alone with a few thoughts and just the guitar
to keep her company, tying up some loose ends before she moves
on with her life. Music stripped of pretence, the songwriter's
'voice' brilliantly articulates the hurt and bruises of a break-up.
Feelings are so close you can almost reach out and touch them,
particularly on the title song and 'Colorado Blue'. Yet the
Portland songwriter carries the whole thing off without self-pity
or hate. About Farewell is a masterstroke from an artist growing
in confidence and maturity, who just seems destined to get better
Anna Calvi One Breath
Calvi's accomplished sophomore effort is a lesson in controlled
power. Many will focus on the singles 'Eliza' and 'Suddenly',
but like all great albums stop there and you're only scraping
the surface. The real joy of One Breath is in all the things
she appears to be holding back, the great satin-like voice ('Bleed
Into Me'), menacing guitar blades cutting through a widescreen
vision ('Tristan', conjuring a storm to rival anything the Savages
have done!) and influences of exquisite orchestral pieces (the
atmospheric 'Sing To Me') and sacred choral music ('The Bridge')
which take things to another level entirely. More experimental
'Piece By Piece' and 'Carry Me Over' show off the incessant
creativity and developing style, while the singles bring the
pop sensibilities back into focus. It's like a mountain base
camp, the ascent continues for Calvi
Burial Rival Dealer
William Emmanuel Bevan must felt boxed in, so he steps sideways
slightly to deliver his most accessible release to date. The
Rival Dealer ep is less about the physical urban spaces that
Burial's earlier work inhabits, more about hopes and dreams
somewhere else. With its trademark crackles and sonic 'effects',
the title comes as close to a techno anthem as this artist would
ever be prepared to go, but on 'Hiders' tape hiss sugar-coats
bleeding coats of romance, and the theatricality of 'Come Down
To Us', with its samples of a speech made by Lana Wachowski
about overcoming the prejudice she faced as a transgender person
both hint at something more profound. Bevan has since issued
press statements underlining the themes of anti-bullying and
self-belief, but this enchantingly dramatic spectacle of the
ep just ties all the epic headphone moments in a musical for
the young at heart.
Monomania tries to be many things, probably in an effort to
debunk some of the baggage left from 2010's gossamer-finish
Halcyon Digest. Garage-punk, noise, shoegaze, Americana are
all thrown into the heady mix which sees Bradford Cox doubling
back on himself in a nod to the band's 2004 hard-assed punk
debut Turn It Up, Faggot. Songs like 'Leather Jacket' and 'Back
To The Middle' are slightly counterbalanced by 'The Missing'
and 'THM' from the softer melodic end of the band's oeuvre
they didn't totally kick out the jams - but hypnotic 'Neon Junkyard',
country & western-inspired 'Pensacola' and the winding thrash
of the title track are pleasant surprises, of which there are
many on this musical rollercoaster and darn fine album.
Phoenix are still fighting the good fight against manufactured
pop. Like Gallic kindred spirits Air and Daft Punk, they've
realized there's no point in running away, the Beatles were
pop after all! Bankrupt! is a clever foil to 2009's absurdly-titled
and masterful album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, starting out with
fresh songs and insight ('Entertainment', 'The Real Thing' and
'SOS In Bel Air are all classics!), but then delivering music
with a dreamier and more experimental reach (the title track,
'Chloroform' and 'Don't' all pulse gently beneath the predominantly
band's newfound synth-generated music), before returning with
great verve by the end ('Bourgeois' and 'Oblique City'). Bands
like Phoenix, M83 and MGMT offer a glimpse into pop's future,
and with Depeche Mode even making a half-decent album this year,
this still seems a curiously bright and beautiful thing.
Devendra Banhart 'Mala' honing his songcraft on his spooky
Willis Earl Beal 'Nobody Knows' very dark soul and gospel
James Blake 'Overgrown' rare for an album to actually live
up to its hype!
Dean Blunt 'The Redeemer' another highly original talent,
what is it, exactly? :)
Zachary Cale 'Blue Rider' over-sized and under-appreciated
talent, 8 folk gems
Georgia's Horse 'Weather Codes' the darkest of Americana,
still threatening something bigger
Las Kellies 'Total Exposure' a band starting to really develop
a funky reggae groove
Marc Ribot's Ceramic Dog 'Your Turn' his punk rock guitar
playing seems to know no bounds
Ty Segall 'Fuzz' prolific and creative whichever way he turns
Wire 'Change Becomes Us' the masters back
but with inspiration
from the past